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Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony (2015)

Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony (2015)   83.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka the Rum Howler)
Published January 03, 2016

Forty Creek Whisky has for the last number of years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in the release by offering to let you choose your own numbered bottle. As well you can have your bottle signed by their own Master Distiller and Whisky Maker, John Hall, when you arrive to pick up your pre-ordered bottles. These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are basically versions of this whisky which have undergone some special aging or finishing technique which would bring a new character to the Forty creek Whisky.

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony was the 2015 release made available last fall in Ontario and in other select Canadian Markets.

According to the folks at Forty Creek:

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony is the 9th Limited Release from Forty Creek Whisky. This year, we decided to create a bit of music by carefully blending and harmonizing three single grains: rye, barley and corn. We began by fermenting and distilling each individual grain separately. Both the rye and the barley stocks date back to when we first began our Forty Creek Distillery. This Limited Release marks the first time these stocks have been introduced into one of our whiskies. As with many of our Signature Editions, the separate, single grain whiskies were patiently aged in toasted white oak barrels. At their peak flavour potential, they were then artfully blended to create the subtle yet complex whisky we named Three Grain Harmony.

Three Grain Harmony is bottled at 43% alcohol by volume.

forty-creek-harmony-sam_2633In the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek uses the same style of bottle for each of their annual special releases. I have always loved the look of this bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed. My growing collection of Forty Creek Special Release bottles are one of the major attractions which always please my guests when they see them on my Whisky shelf.

In the case of the Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony the spirit arrives in an attractive cardboard box which includes tasting notes on the side and a useful description of the whisky upon the back of the box. In my mind, this is a perfect whisky presentation.

In the Glass 8.5/10

In the glencairn, the whisky shows us a nice rich hue of copper just turning the corner towards bronze. When I tilt the glass and give it a twirl, it shows a thickened sheen of liquid, the crest of which drops medium-sized legs which amble back to the whisky at the bottom of the glass. The initial nose is rich with butterscotch and toffee and moderately spicy oak and tree sap.  As the glass sits two notes capture my attention, one which appeals to me strongly, a rich spicy rye note full of ginger and fresh grain, and one note which seems discordant, a sour dank fruit-filled note of fermented apricot and sour mash.

I decided to allow the glass to breath for a full ten minutes to see if the two notes could come together, but in the end I remained unconvinced of the harmony. Although the triumvirate of  toffee, rye and oak spice is very appealing, I found myself distracted by the underlying sour fruit which seemed out of step with the rest of the scents and smells in the breezes.

In the Mouth 50.5/60

The flavour in the mouth has a bit of a “if I try this long enough, I will really begin to like it” quality. I wonder though (as this is a limited edition bottling), whether time will allow me to get to that point where the flavour can win me over. The whisky certainly is rich with bold rye and oak flavours sweetened just a little by soft toffee. However I also taste flavours of sour red wine and hints of fermented fruit. This menagerie of opposing flavours tries to merge and become one; but to me, the separate aspects of the whisky seem to be uneasy with each other. What is formed is more of an uneasy truce rather than a harmonious alliance.

I found that to reach a suitable point of enjoyment for sipping I had to add a couple of cubes of ice. This muted all of the flavours, and allowed the spirit to find a more peaceful co-existence with itself. The ice brought also forward some nice flavours of chocolate covered turkish delight candy bar; however, it also seemed to retrain the robust character within the whisky.

In the Throat 11.5/15

There is a sharp bite of both oak spice and heated alcohol which lingers across the palate and settles into the back of the throat after each swallow. As the sharpness ebbs I taste hints of red licorice and an unfortunate left-over flavour of sour chocolate milk. It seems this off note of sourness has persisted throughout the sampling experience; however it is in the exit that its persistence it most troublesome.

The Afterburn 8/10

I am very much in conflict with myself over this review.

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony is a bold fully flavoured whisky which should have scored much higher. However, the whisky never really comes together.

On the nose, I was distracted by distracted by a note of underlying sour fruit; In the mouth, I found sour red wine and hints of fermented fruit clashing with the other rich whisky flavours, and then in the exit I was confronted by an unfortunate lingering  sour chocolate milk.

It’s just a guess, but could it be that sulfur is the culprit here?

In the end I have chosen the lower middle ground with a score of 83.5/100.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Recipe

I seemed to find light flavours of red licorice and flavours of fermented red wine in the flavour profile of the Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony which made me think that a Manhattan Cocktail might be a suitable destiny for this whisky. As I did not have any sweet vermouth on hand, I decided that a Ruby Manhattan would be a suitable alternative. (I was right, it is downright tasty.)

Winter ManhattanRuby Manhattan

2 oz Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony
3/4 oz Ruby Port Wine
Dash of Angostura Bitters (optional)
3 Large Ice cubes
Brandied Cherry
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the whisky, the Port Wine, and the optional bitters with 3 large ice cubes in a Martini Shaker.
Shake vigorously to chill the mixture.
Add a brandied cherry to your chilled glass.
Strain the mixed ingredients over the cherry but do not add the ice.
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)

Garnish with orange peel if preferred.

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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